How to Start a Nonprofit in Virginia


In Virginia, starting a nonprofit can be as easy as filling out a form. However, there are many steps that you’ll need to take before submitting your application for incorporation. When starting your own nonprofit organization, it’s important to do your research and plan ahead. This will help ensure that everything goes smoothly when it comes time to file for tax-exempt status with the IRS.

Step 1: Choose a name for your organization

You should choose a name for your organization that is unique and memorable. It should also reflect the mission of your organization. For example, if you are starting a nonprofit that focuses on helping senior citizens, then you might want to call it Senior Citizens United. A good name should be easy to pronounce and spell by people who don’t know what it means (or who may mispronounce or spell it). Your organization’s name shouldn’t be too long or too short; otherwise, it will be difficult for people to remember and say in conversation.

Step 2: Apply for an EIN Number

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a nine-digit number assigned by the IRS to businesses, nonprofits, estates and trusts. It’s used to identify you as the owner of your organization. You’ll need an EIN number to open certain bank accounts and file tax returns for your nonprofit organization.s

Step 3: File your nonprofit articles of incorporation in Virginia

Once you’ve decided to form your nonprofit, the next step is to file your articles of incorporation in Virginia. This will be a one-time process that takes just a few minutes.

You’ll need:

  • A copy of your EIN number for your Virginia nonprofit organization
  • The names and addresses of all incorporators (those who will run the corporation)
  • The name(s) under which you want to operate your nonprofit organization

Step 4: Create an operating agreement

You should create an operating agreement. An operating agreement is a document that outlines the internal structure of your nonprofit organization and its relationship to the community. It can be used to address many issues, such as:

  • How you’ll be organized (for example, who will make decisions on behalf of the organization).
  • Who’s responsible for what tasks, such as fundraising or providing services?
  • What happens if one or more people leave the board (who has a right to vote on behalf of your organization?)

Creating an operating agreement takes time, so start early! Once you’ve finished creating your bylaws and choosing a board of directors for your nonprofit, consider getting together with them to discuss how they envision running their organization moving forward. What do they hope it will look like? Are there any specific goals they’d like to achieve through their work? How should their roles within this role fit into those goals? These questions are important because they’ll help inform what kind of operating agreement makes sense for you.

Step 5: Register with the IRS, Virginia Department of Taxation, and obtain your tax-exempt status

As a nonprofit, you will need to register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and obtain your tax-exempt status. To do so, you will have to fill out Form 1023. This form is used by all nonprofits that have applied for 501(c)(3) status or are applying for other types of exemptions from federal income taxes.

The Virginia Department of Taxation also requires organizations that file as corporations or LLCs in the state of Virginia to register with this agency. The registration process is pretty straightforward and involves completing a few forms online.

Once you’ve completed these steps, your organization should be fully registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in both states!

Step 6: Apply for any necessary local, state and federal business licenses and permits in Virginia

In order to operate a nonprofit organization in Virginia, you will need to apply for your federal tax exemption status. You can do this by filing form 1023 or 1024.

You’ll also need to apply for local business licenses and permits. The city or county clerk’s office is a good place to start. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers useful information about what licenses and permits are required for nonprofits operating in Virginia.

Step 7: Create a plan to start a successful nonprofit

You’ve done your research and determined that a nonprofit is a right option for your vision. Now what?

There are a few steps you’ll want to take before moving forward. First, you’ll need to create a mission statement—a clear articulation of what your organization will do and how it will accomplish its goals. For example, if you’re starting an animal shelter, your mission statement might be something like “to provide loving homes for animals in need while educating people on proper pet care.” Once you’ve written up your mission statement, be sure to share it with anyone who will be working on the project with you; it should guide all decisions made throughout the process.

Next, determine who your target audience is going to be: what specific group of people do you want this nonprofit organization to help? This can range from families in rural communities who don’t have access to quality education about personal finance (like Credit Union Foundation) or any other number of causes that lend themselves well to nonprofits (like Hosea Feed The Hungry). After figuring out which type of person or family would benefit most from the work being done by this organization, make sure there’s enough demand in their area before proceeding further down the road toward opening day!

Now that we have our target audience identified (and hopefully much more), let’s start thinking about how we’re going use marketing strategies like advertising and social media campaigns effectively so people know about our cause early on when fundraising efforts begin later down this list!


You’ve learned the fundamentals of starting a nonprofit in Virginia, but what is the takeaway?

First and foremost, you should have a plan. You need to be able to show that you have given this some thought and are prepared to take action if necessary. You also need to know how much time and money it will cost, and whether or not those costs fit your budget. The last thing you want is for your organization to be found noncompliant with state regulations because of oversight at the beginning stages of its founding.


Starting a nonprofit is a challenging but rewarding process. When you start with the right information and guidance, you can have a successful nonprofit in no time!

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